Two Towers

We finally went to see the second installment of Lord of the Rings today. We were supposed to go while my mother-in-law was in town so she could babysit. Because of the illness we all had though, that didn’t work out. So we went with Vic in tow today.

That actually wound up working out all right, even though he didn’t sleep through most of the movie the way he has in the past. He’s gotten old enough now that he stays awake much more, so we can’t just toddle off to a movie with him in the sling and expect him to sleep through the whole thing. We sat all the way in the back in the handicapped seats though so we’d have room for his stroller and while he did nap for an hour while we were at the theater, that only got us about 15 minutes into the movie because what he slept through were the 15 minutes of ads and trailers ahead of the film.

Our strategy for getting through the film without him getting upset evolved into us taking turns walking around with him at the back of the theater, sitting on the floor and playing with him while watching over his head, or me nursing him when he got hungry. That all wound up working rather well — he got a particular kick out of crinkling the plastic wrapper from my Twizzlers and batting at the emergency light strips embedded in the floor. I don’t think we were too much of a bother for anyone since we were a good 6 rows behind most of the other folks in the theater and he never got very loud, just babbled a bunch. He even watched a few minutes of the film — he seemed particularly entranced by Eowyn and Arwen. Go figure.

As for myself, I wasn’t as thrilled with this adaptation as I was with that of the first book. Most of my quibbles though, stem from the fact that I am much too fond of the novels. If I try very hard to step back from it all, the elements that were changed in the film really do work and help keep the pace dynamic. That said, here’s a brief summary of my likes and dislikes about the film — spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it yet.

The Good Stuff:

  • Gollum. My lord did they ever do a good job on him. I kept doing double takes because he looked that real, even though I knew in the back of my mind that he was just CGI. The scenes showing the internal debate between Smeagol and Gollum were really really good.

  • Aragorn. They let the character start coming into his own in this film which is nice to see. I really admired Viggo Mortenson’s acting job in this one.

  • Legolas and Gimli. They really developed the dynamic between the dward and the elf well in this film. I’ve always liked the friendly competition that develops between them in the books and this was nicely handled in the movie I think.

  • Eowyn. I really like the way they brought Eowyn to life. She’s a very distant, almost theoretical character in the book, Tolkien hints a lot at what’s going on with her but his focus is elsewhere. The screenplay, the direction and Miranda Otto’s interpretation come together nicely to give us a much more richly textured take on Eowyn, without straying too far from Tolkien’s depiction in my opinion and I really like that.

  • Wormtongue. Brad Dourif rocks. That’s all I have to say about that.

  • Eomer and Theoden. Karl Urban brings a nice intensity to Eomer and Bernard Hill brings a nice level of dignity and emotionality to Theoden.

  • The intro. I love the fact that they chose to open the film with the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. An unexpected but inspired choice I think.

  • Elrond and Galadriel’s Psychic Communications. I liked how this was inserted to show their power. It’s left up to the imagination in the books and I was always sort of vague on why elves were so spiff, even though we know they’re powerful etc. This made it more concrete for me.

  • The Battle of Helm’s Deep. Being able to see it visually helped me to make sense of things that I always had trouble actually seeing when reading the books, especially the whole side door bit when Aragorn sallies out to attack the orcs at the gate.

The Disappointments:

  • Faramir. I am so pissed and bummed about the way Faramir is handled. I really think they missed the boat on this one. Sure, he winds up redeeming himself, but the point is that he’s supposed to get it from the get go unlike his brother. Bah. His not getting-itness also winds up putting Sam and Frodo in Osgiliath and meeting the winged Nazgul face-to-face, which makes no sense at all. If one of them saw him and knew where the ring was, they’d all have been on him as fast as they could fly and the movie would be over. Double bah even if the winged nazgul looked damn cool.

  • The Warg Battle. This added bit was totally pointless and gratuitous in my view. It didn’t really accomplish anything. As far as I can see, the only point to it, was to show Eowyn’s reaction and it’s already pretty obvious before then that she’s hooked on Aragorn. Of course, the CG of the Wargs themselves were pretty cool, but I think you can only get into that if you’re really into Tolkien and remember the Warg battle from the Hobbit.

  • The Ents. I liked their eyes. But this entire plotline was handled poorly. Once again, contrivances were used for the Merry and Pippin storyline instead of the flow in the books, which actually makes sense. I’m quite put out that we didn’t get to see the forest of Huorns trapping the Orcs at Helm’s Deep. The way the EntMoot was handled was really bad in my opinion too. No QuickBeam. No ent draughts. Bah humbug.

  • Weak Theoden. While I liked the actor’s portrayal, I didn’t like the way they handled the weak king at the beginning. Instead of it being the man’s mind simply led astray, they present it as an actual possession/enchantment which I think was taking it a bit too far.

  • The end. Though I understand why they did it, I still think that the imagery of Sam flinging himself at the gates of the tower where Frodo has just been carried off post-Shelob would have been a very effective one to end the second film on. Instead, we’re left with them still plodding towards Mordor in a similar scene to the ending of the Fellowship film. This left me with a sense of nothing actually having happened between film 1 and film 2 even though a lot has.

So when I list it all out, there’s more good stuff than bad, and I did enjoy the film, but those three downers were kind of big for me and have left me feeling sort of “enh” instead of wildly excited like I was after the first one. I’m still looking forward to the next one, and crossing my fingers that they’ll give Merry and Pippin more to do. There’s lots of development for them in the third book and I sincerely hope that they’ll tap into that for the final film and stop treating the characters as comic relief.